by Mike Henry

Trainer Ramon Minguet and jockey Samuel Marin had a strong feeling their 3-year-old gelding Zydeceaux was prepared for a big effort in today’s $125,000, 7-furlong Pasco Stakes for 3-year-old males at Tampa Bay Downs.

“He’s a very, very fast horse,” Minguet said.

“I believed in my horse. I knew he was getting good and that he was going to try hard,” the 21-year-old Marin said.


Zydeceaux and jockey Samuel Marin, outside, stave off a late challenge from Champions Dream to win the $125,000 Pasco Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)   

Zydeceaux wasn’t able to convince the betting public, who sent him off as the longest shot in the six-horse field at 9-1. But horses aren’t known to read the tote board, and it was clear from the outset the son of Cajun Breeze, out of the Graeme Hall mare Wink At the Boys, had his mind on running.

“He was strong from the beginning, and I knew I had a lot of horse in my hands,” Marin said. “When I asked him (at the top of the stretch), I knew he was going to roll.”

The favorite, Grade III winner Champions Dream, got uncorked late under jockey Samy Camacho, and the gray Mark Casse-trained colt staged an impressive rally after Camacho switched him to the inside of Zydeceaux. But his spirited rally fell a neck short, giving Zydeceaux his third victory in five career starts. Shaq Diesel finished third.

Zydeceaux paid $21.40 to win after completing the distance on a fast but demanding track in 1:24.64. He is owned by Stud Carmen Cristina and was bred by Dee Ellen Cook and Suzette Parker.

Minguet said the connections will consider running him in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 11.

The exciting finish to the 25th edition of the Pasco Stakes was a highlight of a strong Skyway Festival Day card that featured three stakes races.

In the 39th running of the $125,000, 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Opus Forty Two and jockey Daniel Centeno surged to the lead on the turn for home and extended her lead smartly, only to face a whirlwind challenge on the outside outside from fellow long-shot Charlie’s Wish under Emisael Jaramillo.

Opus Forty Two hung on for a nose victory, her second in four career starts and second on the Oldsmar main dirt track since being switched from the turf by trainer Arnaud Delacour.

“When we passed the wire, I didn’t even know who won the race, it was so close,” Centeno said. Neither did Delacour.


Opus Forty Two and jockey Daniel Centeno, inside, edge Charlie's Wish by the slimmest of noses in the $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

Centeno, who has now won the Gasparilla three times, was aboard Opus Forty Two when she broke her maiden here on Dec. 3 by almost 5 lengths going 6 furlongs in her previous start. “She didn’t face the same caliber of horses that day and ended up hanging a bit when she was in front, so we weren’t sure if she was good enough to compete against these. She proved that she was,” Delacour said.

The daughter of Mendelssohn-Laquesta, by Lemon Drop Kid, is owned by Mark B. Grier. She completed the distance in 1:24.91. Personal Pursuit finished third in the eight-horse field.

Opus Forty Two paid $18.80 to win.

“I worked her last week and she went really good (4 furlongs in 48 2/5 seconds),” said Centeno. “I told (Delacour) after her last race I thought she would be better going 7 furlongs, and she broke really sharp, and I settled her in the middle because I wanted to get her to relax.

“When I moved her outside, she really took off and gave it her all to the wire. She really likes this track,” Centeno said.

Delacour and Grier will discuss returning Opus Forty Two in the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes going two turns on Feb. 11.

In the $50,000, mile-and-a-sixteenth Wayward Lass Stakes for older fillies and mares, 5-year-olds Tap Dance Fever and Pass the Champagne staged a pulsating stretch-long duel, with the Gerald Bennett-trained Tap Dance Fever edging away in the final strides to win by a short head.

Jose Ferrer rode Tap Dance Fever to her first stakes victory and fifth in 20 tries. The mare is owned by Bennett’s Winning Stables, Inc., concern in partnership with J.P.G. 2, Mr Pug and Mary K. Thomas.

tap dance fever

Tap Dance Fever, outside, might have her ageless jockey and trainer boogieing in the aisles tonight after a thrilling triumph in the Wayward Lass (courtesy SV Photography)

Seeing the 78-year-old Bennett celebrate a stakes victory with Ferrer, 58, led some old-timers to reminisce about Ferdinand’s 1986 Kentucky Derby triumph, when 73-year-old trainer Charlie Whittingham and 54-year-old jockey Bill Shoemaker made racing history.

“The older he gets,” said co-owner James Georgeades, referring to Ferrer, “the better he gets. Just like the old man (Bennett).”

Ferrer said both his horse and Pass the Champagne, ridden by Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr., battled gamely down the lane, neither surrendering an inch. “I waited until the 1/8-mile pole to make my move, because I knew (Pass the Champagne) was the horse to beat,” Ferrer said. “It was a great feeling to win.”

“He (Ferrer) breezed her last week and told me she was better today than for her last race (an allowance/optional claiming victory here on Dec. 17),” Bennett said. “She was flipping her palate a few starts back, so we added a tongue tie and it made a big change on her.”

The victory was the first in the 39 runnings of the Wayward Lass for both Ferrer and Bennett.

Tap Dance Fever’s time was 1:44.09. The favorite, Beth’s Dream, finished third. The field was reduced to six horses when Miles of Smiles was scratched at the starting gate.

Tap Dance Fever paid $10 to win as the third betting choice.

Around the oval. Leading Oldsmar jockey Samy Camacho won three races today, all with maiden runners. He won the third race on Notah, a 3-year-old colt owned by Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable and trained by John P. Terranova, II.

Camacho won the eighth and 10th races with Chad Brown-trained horses, capturing the eighth with breeder-owner RanJan Racing’s first-time starter Aspray, a 3-year-old filly, and the 10th on 3-year-old filly Modern Love, owned by CHP Racing.

Manny Jimenez rode the winners of the first two races to sweep the early daily double. The 9-8 combination paid $119 for a $2 wager. Jimenez won the first race on Rookie Salsa, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned and trained by Ron G. Potts. The rider capture the second race aboard Indian Buzz, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Danny Lee Linville and trained by Jeffrey Poole.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:32 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.